Strathisla 12 Review (Old and New Version)

THE OLD STRATHISLA (Before 2013) (Written on March 31, 2014.)

strathisla_12_yearI suppose I should get around to laying down my thoughts and feelings about the rest of the single malt scotches I’ve had opened in my cupboard for the past year. I put the breaks on reviewing scotches too early because a good bottle of single malt when it’s full will often morph into a whole other beast when it’s half full and will develop even further when it’s almost all gone. A good scotch requires patience and time to open up and reveal its secrets, or in some cases lose its charm. In either case, a more accurate appraisal requires the full experience of the bottle, not just the first few drams.

Exhibit A: Strathisla 12 (in the old dark bottle) is one of the most enjoyable single malt scotches I’ve ever tasted. It’s not smoky or peaty. To my palate (and nose), it’s sweet, smooth and boggy, though I’ve heard no one else describe it as boggy. It was such a pleasure, I drank it with a touch of water just about every day after work until half the bottle was gone. That’s when it began to lose its warm smooth punch. Although it was never overly complex, what character it did have was rich, full and deep. It’s unremarkable and sharp now that it’s down to the final third of the bottle. But that first half of the bottle was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had drinking a single malt.

Strathisla is pleasant and easy to drink and at $48 a bottle, I’d easily choose it over the current bottlings of Lavagulin 16 and similar more prestigious single malts that sell for double the cost. It’s a shame the current bottlings of Strathisla are smaller (700ml instead of 750ml) and with less alcohol (40% instead of 43%). Get the old bottlings if you can. It may be considered a budget single malt, but it puts up a respectable fight against bottles that sell for twice as much. It’s a hidden gem. I wish I’d discovered it years ago.

I expect I’d agree with Ralfy on this one.

THE FINE PRINT. Nose: Old moist rotten wood and lilies (if any of this means anything). Palate: oily in the mouth, then creamy with honey and mature oak, black earth, smooth. Finish: a hint of spice, more warming oak and Speyside sherry smoothness, a simple but distinctly rich and satisfying long finish if you have the patience to wait for it. A splash of water rounds off any rough edges, though neither is it harsh taken neat.

THE NEW STRATHISLA (After 2013) (Written on November 23, 2014.)

Well, I picked up a bottle of the new version of Strathisla 12, exactly the same bottling reviewed by Ralfy in his video, and I’ll say this: The old Strathisla was a $100 scotch that sold for less than $50 (which I regret not buying by the case) and the new Strathisla is a $40 scotch that sells more than $50. I’d prefer a bottle of Aberfeldy 12 for $43 instead. It’s the only single malt in the same price range I’ve tasted that comes close to the old Strathisla 12. What a shame. I could change my mind when I get further down the bottle, but after the first few drams, the new Strathisla seems diluted, as simple as that, weak, thin, no body, no earth, not at all in the same class as the old Strathisla which was deep and satisfying right from the start and stayed that way for most of the bottle.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John’s, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

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